Memories

I’ve been listening on Audible to some great books written by sober authors. The latest one is “Quit Like a Woman” by Holly Whitaker. She is a true Badass! Holly details the unique struggle women have due to our history of oppression, misogyny, discrimination, condescension, the trials, challenges and suffering from living in a white man’s world. Holly is a gifted writer, I love her style. She is also incredibly raw, vulnerable, transparent, straightforward, and no-nonsense. I adore her.

One of the many areas that Holly covers in detail is addiction. I appreciate the way she delves into all the different addictions to which we humans can (and do) succumb, such as eating disorders, exercise obsessions, cleaning, gambling, porn, other forms of sex, Internet, gaming, smart phones, shopping, gossiping, sugar, caffeine, and overwork. There might be many more, but you get the idea. It caused me to think back to my very first cup of coffee. I was a senior in high school, 16 years old, commuting as a day student to an all (rich)-girls private college preparatory boarding school in Greenfield, MA. It was a very high-level educational facility, a tough school academically, and I was working very hard. We had just moved there, I was the new girl- an excruciating experience I never would have chosen. It was a really rough year because of that.

I had a huge project for my Sociology class, one of my favorite classes. I loved my Sociology teacher and I wanted to ace this report. I was so tired at night I didn’t have very much energy to work on the project and the due date was approaching. I remember thinking I would join my father (who was a super early riser), and work on my report in the early morning hours when I was fresher.

Dad awakened at 4:30 and made himself “egg coffee”. I did the same, 4:30 wake-up. I liked to watch him make egg coffee. The raw egg, shell and all, was tossed into the coffee grounds in the bottom of the coffee pot on the stove top, stirred into the grounds, then filled with boiling water. The coffee, egg, and water were left to simmer for about 10 minutes. I have heard folks also call this cowboy coffee. I had never tasted it but it smelled good to me. This particular morning, I decided maybe it would be fun to try a little coffee as I worked on my project. I put artificial sweetener and milk in it, and I sipped it easily- it tasted good to me. Within minutes, I couldn’t believe how wide awake I felt. I was hooked! Wow! I breezed through my project (which I did ace!), and felt awesome. And just like that, I started drinking coffee most mornings for decades. I have taken breaks from coffee, or waited to have it until later in the morning, as I do now, but for the most part, it was instant addiction. I know caffeine is a pretty benign addiction, but this example demonstrates how quickly an addiction happens. Same can happen with booze.

A friend remarked the other day, and I have been thinking about it ever since, how difficult it would be to have a food addiction. With booze, I can always avoid it and not have it around me at all. I can choose not to go to bars, not to gather in booze-heavy establishments. With food, there is no choice, we all have to eat. I feel great compassion for anyone who has an addiction to comforting themselves with food, I know that must be incredibly difficult. I have friends that have work addictions, I have friends that are shopaholics, I have friends that like to gamble. We all seem to have our unique and varied addictions- there are certainly many to choose from, and as many reasons we become addicted.

I acknowledge how fortunate I am that my life didn’t take a steep free fall down a cliff and crash. It could have. I could have had some disastrous consequences from some of my behavior, I admit that readily. I feel like one of the luckiest people on earth, very blessed in many ways. I guess in the long run, we choose our vices and we do what we do, the best we can. Our best may be phenomenal one day, and mediocre the next. We’re all human in this race called life, and I’m glad you’re here with me. Let’s all be gentle on ourselves, not beat ourselves up, and remember to be kind. We could use so much more kindness in this world, we have enough negativity and mean spiritedness. Let’s all take a stand for love. Love is all we need.

Like a DUCK

When I started working where I am currently employed, almost a year ago, I immediately butted up against an extremely narcissistic coworker, a youngish Millennial who is what would most aptly be described as “The Mean Girl” – the one in junior high that everyone avoids, the bully. I sought refuge with my closest next-in-line Manager thinking that would be a safe place to share my extreme frustrations at how rudely I was being treated. That “Manager” immediately told the “Mean Girl” I had problems with her. Nothing has ever gone well between us since. And that is my work environment, oh so challenging…! That same Manager told me “Judes, you have to learn to be a duck. Let all the crap just roll off your shoulders, like a duck. Just let it all go.” Easy for HER to say! My sensitive nature comes up to show itself so often at work, I constantly am finding the need to restrain myself. I have not yet walked off the job, and I have been there nearly a year, but I have to admit there have been several days when I came very close to saying “F” IT!” and leaving right there and then, no notice, throwing away the glowing recommendations I could come away with if I can contain my impulsiveness. That is an ongoing struggle for me, letting things just roll right off my back. When I am treated rudely, when I witness others treated rudely, meanly, when I hear gossip and cattiness and favoritism, hypocrisy and other unnecessary ill behaviors, my justice and righteousness ‘siren’ blares within me at deafening volume. I cannot be around meanness, rudeness, unfairness, huge egos, gossip, etc. for any length of time, whether directed at me or others. That said, this is a wonderful company with awesome owners, I really like the highest level Supervisor who hired me, I make decent money from generous customers who love me, and for the most part, I truly enjoy my work. Perhaps I am here to master the DUCK philosophy. With that in mind, I am sharing this awesome article as my blog post today:

Let It Roll off Our Back

BY MADISYN TAYLOR

When we are criticized or attacked, it is important to not take it into our heart space. 
One of the most difficult challenges in life is learning not to take things to heart and hold on to it. Especially when we’re younger, or if we’re very sensitive, we take so much of what comes our way to heart. This can be overwhelming and unproductive if it throws us off balance on a regular basis. When we are feeling criticized or attacked from all directions, it becomes very difficult for us to recoverourselves so that we can continue to speak and act our truth. This is when we would do well to remember the old saying about letting certain things roll off us, like water off a duck’s back. 

Most of the time, the attacks and criticisms of others have much more to do with them and how they are feeling than with us. If we get caught up in trying to adjust ourselves to other people’s negative energy, we lose touch with our core. In fact, in a positive light, these slings and arrows offer us the opportunity to strengthen our core sense of self, and to learn to dodge and deflect other people’s misdirected negativity. The more we do this, the more we are able to discern what belongs to us and what belongs to other people. With practice, we become masters of our energetic integrity, refusing to serve as targets for the disowned anger and frustration of the people around us. 

Eventually, we will be able to hear the feedback that others have to offer, taking in anything that might actually be constructive, and releasing that which has nothing to do with us. First, though, we tend ourselves compassionately by recognizing when we can’t take something in from the outside without hurting ourselves. This is when we make like a duck, shaking it off and letting it roll off our back as we continue our way in the world.
Thank you to Daily Om https://www.dailyom.com , a beautiful company with inspiring, spiritual and growth-centric messages.

May I be MORE like a duck today!!

Sober Healing

For many of us, drinking booze has been a way to avoid feeling the intensity of the wounds, traumas, scars, hurts, and pain we endured throughout our lives. When we are triggered by the stress of the day, something someone may have said or done, perhaps the feeling of overwhelm, we drink alcohol so we can numb out. The Booze Bitch takes us on the ride to euphoria for a blessed few minutes. We get to escape into buzzed bliss for awhile, not feeling any pain whatsoever. We are lured into nirvana where nothing is wrong, not a thing has to be done right now, all can wait until tomorrow (which of course never comes). This becomes a habit, then an addiction. It is so much easier to numb, avoid, escape, not face reality, not delve into healing work, rather than allow ourselves to just BE with the intensity of the pain we feel from how we were abused, traumatized, mistreated, not loved, felt a million different levels of sadness or grief. Addiction to any substance is most often a way to avoid feeling pain on varying levels. Booze and other drugs are a form of self medication, numbing out, masking the wound.

Once we start on the sober journey, we no longer choose to turn to The Booze Bitch to soothe us. We give up that security blanket because we know that in reality, there is NO security in the blanket that buries us, the weight of illusion that keeps us from healing and living our best lives. We admit, we learn through our own experience, that booze creates extremes of anxiety, depression, other mental illnesses and a vast array of physical illnesses as well. Once we choose US and the desire to be our best selves, we embark on the path to healing. The healing odyssey is a pretty wild ride, more for some than for others; certainly there is never a dull moment. I am very fortunate to have spent many years involved in healing work before I chose sobriety. I have had a daily meditation practice for a decade, likely the most vital step to healing. I have committed my time volunteering with two wonderful organizations that focus on deep healing work for women and end-of-life, participating as a staff member in this extraordinary healing work. I chose over these past many years to open my wounds with extreme vulnerability and rawness because I wanted to heal, I wanted to help others, and I wanted to learn everything I could about myself. I desired growth, contribution, wanted to experience my very best self. It is a long and never ending passageway to the healing waters, one about which I am immensely grateful.

For me, sobriety was the great big missing link to the completion of my healing. For most, sobriety is the first big step, the gateway. Sobriety is the beginning of looking at every part of ourselves, tenderly, lovingly, learning to accept all the various pieces, every bit of who we are, nurturing and cherishing each of them. Many find therapy helpful to advance in their healing. I certainly have had some great therapists who assisted me in my own healing journey, helping me move through emotions that had me stuck. I highly recommend therapy. Even more than therapy however, I recommend a daily dose of peace, silence, stillness, and serenity before anything else happens in the morning. Meditation is a beautiful way to connect with our own inner wisdom, our light, our spirit, guidance from within, bliss from our own nature. There are numerous books written about self improvement, self development, all facets of healing, and each can be helpful. On my sober journey, “Quit Lit” (books written about the journey into sobriety by people who share themselves on a most vulnerable level, including their real life experiences) has been deeply inspiring and motivational, opening up a beautiful new world of hope, encouragement, and possibilities. Reading and learning how others have made it through to the other side of trauma, wounds, pain, and worse, creates confidence, hope, inspiration, trust, compassion, connection, and more healing.

Physical and biochemical healing is also an integral part of this sober adventure ride. There are several levels of healing that have to take place in order to be fully successful in sobriety. Thorough healing must cover all aspects of what makes us human, including our Spiritual, Social, Psychological, and Biochemical selves. This could be an entire book, so suffice it to say, check out the vast number of resources available on the Internet. You will be rewarded if you do some research into healing on all these levels- there are wonderful works out in the Sober Sphere with a wealth of helpful information. I personally started taking several nutritional supplements to help my brain and body recover when I felt so miserable the first forty days, and they were extremely beneficial. I highly recommend Chris Scott and “Fit Sobriety”, it is likely the one I most relate to as an athlete who was feeling extreme lethargy, depression, and anxiety from the after effects of booze. Check him out here https://fit-recovery.com.

Whatever you decide, be kind to yourself. You are on a journey, and you are not alone. There is an entire world of newborn sober babies, a rapidly expanding movement of sobriety on the planet. We are all giving birth to our best lives, slowly but surely. You will find love, support, encouragement, accountability, laughter, shared experiences and belonging, compassion, and friendship on the deepest levels in this beautiful world. Don’t wait another day to take the plunge. You can start now to become all you are capable of becoming, the waves are calling. Let’s go sober surfing! Come enjoy the wild, wonderful ride of sobriety with all its vitality, happiness, clarity, and healing. Everything is brighter, bigger, and more amazing here.

Myths about Sobriety

It took me years to finally make the decision to stop drinking. There were numerous reasons I thought I could never be a non-drinker, and those reasons were keeping me stuck in alcohol dependency and living a life that was mediocre in comparison to the great big, beautiful life I dreamed about. I want to take some time here today to discuss some common myths and misconceptions most people have about choosing sobriety.

  1. You will now and forever be labeled an Alcoholic. I have gone into depth about my opinions concerning the label “Alcoholic”. For those who are not familiar with my stance on the term, I will do a quick review. Becoming addicted to alcohol affects 15 million people per year because alcohol is a highly addictive substance to which our brains and body develop a powerful dependency- it effects every single body system, not one in a positive way. Alcohol is a toxin. Dependency on alcohol prevents us from being able to go more than a few days, or at best weeks, without it. Even the medical lexicon is no longer using the term “Alcoholic”, they have replaced it with the label “alcohol-use disorder” (AUD) and they diagnose AUD as mild, moderate, or severe. That term created a massive umbrella under which most people who drink alcohol will land. If we drink alcohol on any sort of regular basis, we fall under one or another level of alcohol-use disorder since alcohol is one of the top five most addictive substances in the world. All regular consumers of alcohol exhibit some level of alcohol-use disorder, so let’s pass on labeling ourselves or anyone an “Alcoholic” and bypass all the stigma and shame it carries. You certainly do NOT have to start attending Alcoholic’s Anonymous unless you choose to, it is positively not necessary for becoming sober and for many, it is not desirable. I have zero interest in ever becoming part of that organization for a long list of reasons that I will not go into here. As I have acknowledged previously, AA has saved lives and is a lifeline for some, and hallelujah for that. It is not for me and I am in a growing population of sober folks who take a stand in opposition to the “twelve steps” and AA’s fundamental (masculine, oppressive) principals. That said, you DO need community, support, accountability, help, love, self love(!), forgiveness, growth, healing, determination, commitment. All those character traits are wholly necessary for full immersion into this new way of living. But you do not need to ever, not even for a minute, label yourself or ANYONE else an “Alcoholic”.
  2. Quitting is hard. Making the decision to quit drinking, and knowing your inner compass has wished this for you for maybe your entire adult life, is the hard part. Once you arrive at the point where you realize alcohol is keeping you from living the life you truly want to live, that it is causing unnecessary pain and suffering, that your life could be so much more without the addiction to alcohol with all its negative effects; once you are 100% ready to dive into the Sober Ocean and come swim in the clean, clear, vitality-giving life of that water, nothing is easier. It is the thinking that we are giving up something we love, that we will be missing out on some fun part of life, the belief that life will suddenly be dull and uninteresting, that WE will become dull and uninteresting, that keeps us stuck in addiction. I personally thought I loved the TASTE of my artisan cocktails with all the fresh herbs, berries, and delectable ingredients, but I have never enjoyed drinks more than I have been enjoying my alcohol free “mocktails”. I can say the same for wine. Wine is something we train ourselves to enjoy. Ethanol, the pure form of alcohol and the addictive substance in booze, actually would kill us if we drank it straight. Ethanol is in every alcoholic beverage, disguised with rich, luscious fruit or other ingredients to get us to imbibe. Once our palates get used to NOT drinking alcohol, there is no missing the taste. And in actuality, our sense of taste becomes much more sensitive, acute, turned ON, without the dulling that happens from alcohol. All my food tastes better, the notion that wine makes food taste better is not true. We are brainwashed with ideas about any form of alcohol enhancing our lives. Living in wine country, I know very well all the romance and sensuality associated with wine. The colorful, romantic, heartwarming stories about the history and culture of winemaking, which I personally appreciate and have always revered, made it hard for me to imagine I would never enjoy a glass again. However, a shift happened in my brain, my body, and my spirit. I have a clear-as-a-bell memory of the lethargy, anxiety, debilitating depression, self loathing, muscle aches, hangovers, the myriad struggle in 100 different ways, of how I felt because I drank 2/3 of a bottle of wine every night. The comparison of my wine drinking life to the vitality I am experiencing now makes letting go of my wine habit a total no-brainer. Simple! Sobriety is full of fun, productivity, creativity, love, joy, and endless possibilities. I would not be writing this blog and sharing all I have shared with you, if this were not true.
  3. Sobriety is boring! If I become sober, I will be boring. This one is about as far from any truth as it gets. I have laughed harder, cried more, felt more, lived bigger, experienced greater happiness and joy, gotten so much more done than I ever thought I could, played, socialized, and lived more fully than ever before since I became sober 98 days (!) ago. Imagine having a day so full of ideas, inspiration, excitement, and vitality, you can’t wait to jump out of bed earlier than you can imagine, just to get a start on it. THAT is sober living.
  4. I won’t be able to relax, sleep, chill out, enjoy sex, de-stress. You might need to learn new habits, new ways of coping, new skills, adapt some new healing tools, to naturally destress and unwind, deal with conflicts, communicate. Alcohol is a horrible interrupter of sleep, as it totally “F”‘s with our blood sugar, causing first a huge spike which makes us super sleepy, then a drastic drop in our blood sugar as our body metabolizes it, which wakes us up and makes us crave more sugar. One of the first things people say when they give up drinking, and usually in just the first week, is that they are sleeping better than ever in their lives. Uninterrupted, peaceful, happy sleep. Then we start noticing our skin looks better, all the puffiness goes away. Then our eyes are brighter, our energy level is off the charts, we are singing as we vacuum or drive our usual commute, we are seeing and feeling everything at enhanced levels, we feel this new sense of heightened gratitude and appreciation for life, the joy overflows. This isn’t just my experience, it has been pretty much universal in the sober groups to which I belong. It is the sober journey into being authentic, real, healthy, and healed. I may take the rest of my life to accomplish some of the big things I want to accomplish, to make my mark in the world, to leave my legacy. I was never going to get what I wanted as I was dealing with procrastination, avoidance, and other destructive behaviors that were my daily hamster wheel experience while drinking. As a sober woman, I am growing into my best self, and that makes me ecstatic. There really is no finish line.
  5. I will be missing out- all my friends drink, go out to bars, talk about drinking all the time, I mean -alcohol is part of everything! FOMO. This may be true, but it is absolutely not necessary to drink to be part of social gatherings, celebrations, deep conversations, visions, and all forms of fun. I am having a total blast these days, as I am feeling more emotions on every level, and appreciating how much joy is spilling out of me. If you hesitate to give up drinking, even though you know there is a better life awaiting on the other side of alcohol addiction, trust me. I know it is a leap of faith to walk away from The Booze Bitch and all her lies, but it is honestly the most wonderful, rewarding, truly authentic journey you will ever take. It is easy for me to say I will never drink again, but you never have to say or feel that if you don’t want to, that is my decision and I am completely, ecstatically happy about it. Start with thirty or sixty days (I recommend a minimum of 60!), and see how you feel. Come surf the sober waves with me, they are the biggest, brightest, and most thrilling ever! Just learn the highly developed skill of surfing first-prepare your tool kit for success. I’ll be waiting for you with a delicious mocktail in celebration!!

Growth Opportunities

For the past few decades, I have been on an accelerated quest to grow, expand, transform, heal, and learn how to love myself. I am on a mission to learn the practice of letting things go, and the wonderful habit of pausing before speaking. I have a long way to go, but I have come a very long way. As I sit in my beautiful home overlooking the five acres of rolling hills and lemon trees, with freshly washed windows to give me the clearest possible view, I can’t think of anything worth complaining about.

I process my experiences and frustrations through my writing, it helps me release the dissonance from my mind. Sometimes when I go over them later, I cringe just a little as I take in the negativity expressed. I am a very positive person and highly affected by negativity in my world, and I seem to have a need to “get it out” by sharing. I do see all the challenges I am currently focusing on as opportunities to grow. If I can master this period of my life and these people in my life, I will come out stronger. If I can be an Agent of Change wherever I go, I am doing my part, serving my purpose.

Why is it I am feeling a tad guilty for sharing the annoyances and criticism I sometimes feel at how I am treated? I am judging the “other”, sometimes hurt and highly discouraged. I don’t see any of these behaviors as necessary or beneficial – but I have to remember that I have decades more of life under my belt and these younger folks are still on the path to figuring life out, brand spanking new to leadership roles, and perhaps they will never quite arrive at the place I wish they would. I am learning acceptance but it is taking me longer than I want. I am learning patience, but it is definitely not one of my strong suits, or at least not when it comes to my work environment.

There are so many wonderful parts of my work that I truly enjoy, about 90% being my customers. People come to the winery to relax and enjoy themselves, to be pampered, well treated, and served. That is my delight, it makes me soar! I have always loved to go the extra mile for customers, to be an example of exemplary service. It’s fun for me, it’s who I am and what I do, and when it is appreciated, I am pretty much giddy with joy. And that happens all the time for me at work, especially these past couple of months. So you see, I am really not complaining in these posts, or at least not seeing my life as missing anything. I know everyone in our lives is there for a reason. Things are changing for the better at my workplace, and maybe, just maybe, my patience will outlast my impulsiveness, because I still go to that place of wanting to walk away, run away, escape, avoid. Old wounds heal ever so slowly, and surface more during sobriety that at any point in existence. I am not numbing, burying, masking, checking out. I am fully present and having to figure out how to hold in my desired responses. I have always been an “Ask forgiveness, NOT permission” Troublemaker, but it’s time for me to tamper that just the slightest bit. Can you relate?

Learning not to Scream

As I have mentioned previously, I am a highly sensitive person, and someone who holds very high standards for myself and others. When I feel I am treated unfairly, it is incredibly difficult for me to restrain myself. I give all of myself to whatever I do, even if it is emptying disgusting, overflowing trash, scrubbing a filthy floor, cleaning a messy toilet, moving heavy, awkward furniture outside in 100F weather, repeating my ‘tour guide speel’ for the 20th time that day. I am full of passion and I am impulsive. SO impulsive! Apparently we “prone to addiction” types often are quite impulsive, as well as determined, unwavering, creative, passionate, reactive.

I have an exceptional work ethic, which I learned thanks to being first a Corpsmember, then a Crew Leader in the California Conservation Corps whose motto is “Hard Work Low Pay, Miserable Conditions.” Best job ever! That job taught me the value of giving all of myself, all the time, to whatever task was at hand. It was an enormous turning point in my very young life, the first experience of being seen as a Leader at age 22. It started my life long journey into leadership, management, and business.

Now that I am an employee and not in a leadership position, not managing, with no real choice in leading (except when I take new peeps under my wing), I am going through a profound adjustment, to put it mildly. I am trying to control my impulse to scream. When I feel someone is shaming me for being human, for something I did or said that to me is absurdly teeny tiny and not at all important but that they view as enormous, I want to scream “STOP IT!!”. As they blow up the incidence from molehill to mountain in order to wrong me, to belittle and disempower me, I feel every cell in my body revolting. I truly want to strangle them. Shaming is a horrible thing, and something we do often in this world. Women, in particular I believe, experience ineffable shame both given and received. I certainly received my share of shaming from my mother and brothers growing up, and no doubt I have passed it along unknowingly, sadly. I am SO sorry for that; if you were a recipient, please forgive me! I would never intentionally shame anyone now, knowing how rotten it makes the person feel.

Women are threatened by other strong women. It is a sad truth of our society that so many women view one another as competition, something to rally against, something to be “better than”. We compare and despair, judge one another, size the other up deciding whether or not they are worthy. I am so over that, I truly could care less about being the “Number One”, the star player, the standout. I just want to be someone who loves herself, feels totally comfortable in her own skin, is exceedingly happy and passionate about her life, and glows from the inside out. I have accomplished all of that in my sobriety; the inner sunshine has returned in the form of joy and vitality. It is so refreshing! And it is a magnet that attracts others who want to be in the happy bubble with me, it brings others close to me. It is also a magnet that repels anyone who thinks they need to be competing with me, in particular in the work environment. I honestly do not mean to compare myself to anyone. I have all I can handle just being ME, that’s a big enough job! All I can do is continue to make an extreme effort to restrain myself when I want to slap someone, hold in the rude and negative comments that want to come flying out of my mouth in reaction to what has been said to me, and BE an example to others of grace, strength, self confidence, joy, and passion. I am doing the best I can to be impeccable, but no doubt this road is very long, and I have a long way to go to reach nirvana. I’d love to have your companionship on this journey. For me, quitting the Booze Bitch was the biggest first step into living my most authentic life, feeling every single emotion in all parts of myself, not running away. I have wanted to walk out and quit repeatedly, but I am still there, still shining, still learning, still loving many aspects, and still growing. OFF the hamster wheel, ON the scary adventures and roller coaster rides within the Sober Amusement Park. Come along with me, we’ll make it fun together and I promise to be your buddy to support you along the way. We can do this!

Ninety One Days

Today is Day 91 Alcohol Free. Ninety One days of saying NO 100% to The Booze Bitch. All those days ago, I hadn’t any idea what was in store for me, what lay ahead. I had no idea I would feel this overflow of joy, bursting with pride, the complete regaining of trust in myself, massive deepening of self love, and incredible, fabulous vitality. I am experiencing life on such a different level, like I only dreamed of before. The thing is, I have never in my life, from the time I became a “regular” Drinker, had this much time to allow my body to cleanse the toxins from all my cells and take in all the superior food and nutrition that has been my nutrition and lifestyle pretty much forever. In addition, I never imagined the outrageously terrifying roller coaster of emotions that come right along with all that “feeling” stuff. Sadness, grief, repulsion, compassion, inspiration (on steroids!), ideas that never stop flooding my busy brain, ALL OF IT. I am experiencing a whole new ME and wow, I will never trade living like this for my old life. There isn’t a reason on earth for me to return to drinking alcohol. Sober Life is the best life imaginable.

I credit my success to many things. First off, I became entirely fed up with how I was feeling, and who I was BE-ing. I had become a person sitting in a chair, totally isolated for hours upon hours, wasting time so I didn’t have to feel the intense guilt and shame of all my procrastinating, avoiding, boozing to extremes, at least extremes for me. My body and spirit are sensitive, so although I was never a regular bottle-a-day drinker, and certainly never approached the 2+ bottles a day drinking that many of my sober friends maxed out at, I had my own level of “way too much booze”, and it definitely had a profound effect on my health. I was not sleeping well at all, then feeling absolutely lethargic and depressed upon awakening, counting the minutes until I could find temporary relief in bottle form, only to repeat the cycle endlessly. Kept on riding that hamster wheel! Going nowhere good, nowhere I wanted to spend time. It was excruciatingly painful, and I am beyond thankful I finally felt enough courage and self loathing to DO something different. I changed who I had been to experience who I could become.

The sober groups I engage in have been my lifeline. Annie Grace has been my SHE-ro. Her book https://thisnakedmind.com is filled with inspiration, science, antidotes, compassion, and humor. I highly, highly recommend all of Annie’s work. I joined one of her FaceBook groups and post and read daily. I love supporting others, and being part of the group keeps me super-accountable. In addition to Annie Grace, many “Quit Lit“ (Sober) authors have been hugely inspiring and encouraging to me, and as I listen daily to their stories, I am amazed and further inspired. My world has expanded in the most beautiful ways because I said YES!! to sobriety. Now I have a mission. I feel deeply called to join the sober community, the Sober Sphere, to be part of the world of incredible souls who bear all and share their journeys. I am now writing my own account, somewhat of a memoir I suppose, of my personal journey to Sobersville. I hope you will want to read it!

As I spent time yesterday with my favorite little man on the planet, my darling 7 year old Grandson Noah, I enjoyed him and our time together perhaps more than ever. Not having to think about when I will be able to start drinking keeps me present to what is, keeps me in the “now” moment. I am so much more present, happier, and full of energy than I ever was in the past. The idea of returning to drinking seems so absurd now. I was addicted for many reasons. I thought I loved the taste, I certainly loved the romance, I loved the history and story behind the culture of winemaking – but I can enjoy all of that without ever having to swallow a sip. I never want to be someone who preaches or makes anyone feel uncomfortable. I know it is possible to have a positive relationship with wine or any kind of booze, and I honor you if you have that. However, I do feel I want to join the crusade against being duped to believe we must drink alcohol in order to fit in, to relax, to de-stress, to laugh, to dance, to feel pretty, or sexy, to enjoy our lives. I want to be a loud voice against the dangers of alcohol intoxication. If you knew how many times I endangered myself and others by driving when I should not have been driving, post consumption of alcohol, you would be disgusted. Somehow my Angels looked over me and I never came close to having anything bad happen – well, except that time after wine tasting in Los Olivos when I actually fell asleep at the wheel for a few seconds and was driving 75MPH on the side of the highway!! What I am saying is that I count my blessings every single day for all the grace I have received, and I really want others to understand how misguided we have been as a society. Drinking to intoxication and driving under the influence is SO wrong, just don’t do it. PLEASE. I will now get off my soap box, and I hope you don’t think me a hypocrite. I was lucky. I AM lucky, one of the luckiest people on the planet. I want you to be lucky too. Quitting booze has been the best gift I have ever given myself, and I want that joy for you, too. IF you want it for yourself. We all deserve to be living our best lives, and for me, my best life means a sober life. Thank you for listening. If I can change just one life for the better, I will feel ultimately rewarded. This Sober Life brings more benefits than I could ever name. I hope to see you on Sober Island. Let’s go surfing!

What we appreciate, appreciates

It has become glaringly evident to me. When I focus on any negativity I see, it is the dominating energy I experience, it is what I always notice first. When I focus on characteristics in others I find unpleasant, unlikable, appalling, disgusting, they show me more of those traits. As I criticize, dislike, judge, avoid, emphasize, or place my attention on things I do not like, those qualities all grow like an imagined monster in the closet, ready to escape from the shadows of their prison to engulf me with their darkness. My life feels less joyful, my mood less bright, my world smaller. It doesn’t feel good.

It is easy to blame all that is the wrong in the world on “others”, to point our finger at unfairness. How quick we are to blame, shame, protest, rally against. And how is that working out for us? Not so effective. As the “war on drugs” took hold, the addiction to drugs grew, the problems intensified. This happens each time we expend energy “against” a thing, as we focus on what is wrong. My all time favorite quote from Mother Teresa is “I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” Mother Teresa knew the secret of focusing on what we want to bring into the world, as did Maya Angelou who said ““Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” There is great truth in these words. I see it manifest in my world, in our world, all the time. When we push against something, giving it all our attention in an effort to annihilate it, it only grows bigger. If we focus on not having enough money, money eludes us. If we focus on not receiving enough love, we never feel there is an abundance of love. If we concentrate our energies on all that appears out of balance, lacking, hurting, wrong, not the way we want it to be, it grows in magnitude, overwhelming us. I know this from personal experience, but it is a lesson that takes a long time to learn.

Posts shared by members of the sober groups I engage in contain a multitude of experiences lamenting the admissions of failure to stop drinking due to a vast variety of triggers: a difficult circumstance, a loss, a tragedy, an unexpected twist in life, a gathering of friends or colleagues who drink, social functions or engagements that include drinking alcohol, stress that is too much to bear without the familiar crutch of that reliable old sidekick and buddy, booze. I read the words these members are expressing with compassion, sadness, understanding, pain, empathy, and hope. They lament weak moments when they turned back to The Booze Bitch, gave into old familiar drinking habits, were unable to maintain sobriety yet again.

I know how hard it is to get on the sober path and stick with it. I tried to moderate my drinking for decades. It was impossible for me to maintain a low level of drinking for any extended time period. I believe the high rate of falling off the wagon occurs because these delicate humans are focusing on the parts of themselves they feel are not yet strong enough to choose a different, new path. They are not yet able to believe they can do it, they are focusing on the old ways of being that made them who they were, not yet knowing who they will be as sober people. As we repeatedly find ourselves drinking when we promised we would stop, we pave a deeper groove in the broken record of failed attempts, increase our self loathing, depression, and the resulting anxiety that accompanies depression. We intensify mistrust of ourselves, proving we can’t do this, that we failed to make it to the promised land one more time.

My heart truly hurts for these folks. They haven’t yet realized they are repeating the hardest part of the sober journey over and over and over again. They are getting through the difficult first few days, breaking through to the very first glimpse of the bright light shining at the end of the dark drinking tunnel, then kaboooom, off they go back into the abyss of addiction, free falling just a little bit farther down. They manage to stop drinking for perhaps the first week or two, then they give up and start wondering if they will ever be able to succeed. This is like training for a triathlon, only to quit the race before making it to the finish line. It’s akin to losing those last eight out of ten pounds, only to binge wildly for days and sabotage every effort, regaining the weight and then some. The focus needs to be on moving forward. We need to embrace a vision of how bright life will become without the crutch of drinking which puts an immensely dark cloud over everything. I want to gently shake each of these sweet souls and say “You CAN do this, you almost DID this, it is so absolutely worth staying strong and getting through the beginning tough period”. Those first weeks are miserable but necessary as the body and brain go through withdrawal and regain health, ultimately landing on the golden platform of sober success. For me, the first forty days were excruciating. My body was constantly aching and I felt incredibly lethargic, heavy, bloated, blah, my energy absolutely depleted, my brain in a deep fog, my spirit depressed. But I was determined to get to the other side, to experience the return of my joy, my vitality, my inspired life. I knew if I drank again to appease my agonizing symptoms of alcohol addiction, I would only be making the next attempt that much more difficult. It’s true. Every single time we go back to drinking when we promise ourselves we are done, those darn grooves in our addicted brains deepen, making it near impossible to get past the prior amount of days alcohol free. For me, Day 4 was the breaking point. It wasn’t hard for me to take a break from alcohol for three days, but Day 4 was when my entire body, brain, heart, and soul screamed for what I had trained it to want, that dependence on booze. Making it to Day 5 without giving in was my proof to myself that I was going to do this thing. I had to white knuckle my way to Day 5, with help from Quit Lit (stories of personal sober journeys complete with all the details of the struggles), the support groups online, and my own dogged determination. Anger propelled me forward. I was disgusted with feeling sick and tired all the time. I detested all the procrastinating I had been practicing, avoiding so many important details that kept trying to get my attention. I was ready to try something new. I was determined. Every day felt overwhelming. We were experiencing a pandemic, there was no certainty about what the future might bring, my anxiety had completely interrupted my peace and my sleep. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my bills.

What I did know was that what I was feeling, this mediocre existence I was experiencing, was not the one I had dreamed about, not how I knew I wanted to live. Hope had flown the coop, brightness and eagerness, enthusiasm and desire, had all taken a hike. I missed them, and I knew sobriety would return all those precious qualities to my life. I was right. If you find yourself struggling, find a powerful reason, your most potent “WHY”, to reach for a better life. Find within yourself a determination substantial enough to take you on the wild ride to the magic island of sobriety. May your courage navigate you through the rough early waters with a resilience so powerful, a desire so solid, a conviction so unwavering, you take down that dreaded Booze Bitch, make her shake in her boots, send her scampering away at warp speed never to return. Life absent of The Booze Bitch is a life worth living. I look forward to celebrating with you. I am expanding my repertoire of mocktails (alcohol-free artisan cocktails) all the time and I am happy to share. Cheers to YOU.

The Sober Wave

I always wanted to learn how to surf. Since I was extremely young I have been a water baby, enjoying a sacred love affair with lakes, rivers, brooks (next to which my family would camp in my growing up years), water fountains in and outside my home, to the great big, vast ocean. My mother told me I was a total fish in the water as a wee one, taking to it as naturally as a Labrador takes to fetching a ball. Swimming has been one of the greatest joys of my life, and had I grown up next to the ocean (I grew up landlocked), I am sure I would have become a surfer early on.

In my 86 days of sobriety, I am learning to become a skilled surfer of the Sober Wave. Sometimes the waves plummet with incredible force and take me deep under the surface where I can barely breathe. I come up gasping for air, trying to figure out just what happened. How did I end up here? Some of the non-sober surfers in my world seem to be out to knock me off my wave, competing with me on some unknown level for reasons I do not understand. I am not a threat, I am only here to enjoy the sport, to learn the skill, to navigate to the best of my ability. Surfing is a learned skill. Sure, talent for the sport helps, being a natural certainly is an advantage, but for the most part, surfing the sober wave is something anyone can learn to do, and do well.

I read and listen to a lot of “Quit Lit”, books written by courageous and pioneering sober authors sharing incredible sober journeys. In fact, I am writing my own version of my journey in part by writing this blog. The Quit Lit helps by validating the sense of unity, that “we are not alone” feeling of belonging to a tribe. Those of us who become addicted to a substance have a lot of common situations to encounter and conquer throughout our sober quest. The stories of the individual journeys are fascinating and sometimes painful to hear/read as the lives of these brave souls are shared on the pages. They put it all out there, raw and real, baring their hearts for the whole world to witness. The vulnerability and honesty is incredibly refreshing and assuring. So many things they share make them relatable and bring compassion and understanding, empathy and affection to the stories. Sober folks have learned the art of honesty. They have nothing to hide because they have already experienced the hell of addiction. Many have already had the worst happen. Addiction has caused alienation of friends, loss of money, broken families, lost children in custody battles, time in jail or worse, job losses, loss of dignity and self trust, total loss of cherished dreams and relationships. Through their sobriety, these wonderful humans grow up. I think that’s the most fascinating part of sobriety that enamors me – the fact that I am finally, at this advanced stage of my life (I’m not THAT old!), growing into the person I have wanted to be for most of my life. I never knew how disempowering it was to run away from discomfort, to escape my feelings with substances such as booze so I could become numb and not feel the pain that wanted to surface, putting off any healing I might experience, hiding from my real self, avoiding reality and all the responsibilities it requires. Now that I have this amazing boundless energy, it isn’t such a challenge to get things done. I have never been more productive. Without meaning to boast, I must say I am an ideal employee. I work harder than people half my age, I run circles around them. I treat my job with a sense of ownership and pride that is rare anymore. I am exceptionally positive and upbeat even when scrubbing messy toilets and taking out overflowing trash bags. I respect others because I respect myself. Most of all, I respect myself even when others show me they haven’t a clue how to be respectful, kind, encouraging, empowering, supportive, or positive. It has been an amazing experience to be sober these past months and see the world through eyes with a vision clearer than I ever had before – others’ true selves are right there for me to see, no disguising, no fake friendliness. The lack of authenticity is like a bright flashing warning light! I am not fooled by the pretense of artificial maturity, knowledge, wisdom. Those invaluable qualities come from time on the planet, life experiences, growth, a true desire to improve, wanting to be better, and with an intention to be a kind human. Won’t you come surfing with me? It really is a blast, and I am learning how to ride the really big, thrilling waves where the negativity is all washed ashore and transformed into light, love, and joy.